Meet Shop Manager Jeff Varner

Jeff Varner (3)

You’ve been brought on as Versatile’s Shop Manager. Tell us about what your areas of responsibility will be.

I will primarily be monitoring systems and processes as they relate to the daily activities of the shop: production schedules, safety standards, resource needs, tool repairs, etc. My goal is to help facilitate a clear and efficient flow of communication as it relates to production, and to support each of the talented Versatile craftsmen in their work.

You have a background in construction. What aspects of Versatile’s work and process are most similar to your previous work? What’s the most different?

For a long time most of my construction experience came from working on restoring old homes. I was essentially self taught out of both a personal interest in learning how to create something and even more so out of necessity: How can I get this old window to open and close properly? or What style of house is this and what kind of details would have been used when it was built? Most of the time if I didn’t know how to do something I would have to figure it out on my own by taking it apart to see how it was put together. I love the fact that here at Versatile there is so much thought given to details like traditional materials and construction, and attention paid to maintaining accuracy and architectural integrity. That said, the biggest difference is the huge knowledge base to draw from in the form of the talented craftsmen I get to work with. There is so much collective experience in this shop and pride in workmanship so it’s really inspiring to be a part of it.

What inspires you about custom manufacture?

In so many cases, artistic details and architectural elements reflecting a particular era or style of a building are crucial to making a building look “right” in relation to its immediate surroundings, and at the same time create greater harmony and utility within it. We’ve all walked into houses before and thought “Something here doesn’t look or feel right.” Even if we’re not sure what it is. It’s often the execution of thoughtful improvements along with the introduction of “custom” pieces that make a building special and unique within any given style. That is the part that I’m attracted to; the artistic expression in the application of these custom elements, and the artistry and skill necessary to produce and integrate them.

Describe one of your favorite past projects. What were the challenges? What were some of the features that made it memorable?

My favorite projects were the houses I’ve helped bring back from the effects of age and misguided stylistic makeovers. They are like my kids so I can’t choose one over the other. The oldest house I owned was built in 1894 and had suffered decades of abuse. It was only a few blocks from where I grew up and for years I walked by it on the way to school. As I was working on it I did a lot of research of homes from that era to figure out how to put it back together, and in the process I learned a lot about Portland history. It’s like time travel in a way to think about the day-to-day lives of the people who inhabited the very same house over 100 years before, who came and went through the same front door and who walked up and down the same staircase. As I was working on it, I liked to think that they if they could see it today, that they would recognize it and hopefully approve.

What are the top 3 things on your “bucket list?”

I don’t think I can narrow it down to 3 things. We really love to travel and see new places so I’d like to continue doing that as much as I possible. I think it would be fun to live abroad for a year or so at some point. I like living in Oregon though so it would be tough to ever leave permanently.

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Window Word of the Day: Muntin Bar


Muntin Bar: A short, lightweight bar that visually divides a window into “separate” panes.

Did you know: Until the middle of the 19th century, it was economically necessary to use smaller panes of glass, which were much more affordable to produce, and fabricate into a grid to make large windows and doors.


More Window Words  |  Explore the Versatile Project Galleries  | About Versatile Wood Products

Meet Versatile’s Custom Design Manager


Rex grew up in a small town in north eastern Pennsylvania but also lived in Phoenix, AZ and in Seattle, WA before deciding to make Portland home. He has an AAS in Architectural Design & Drafting plus 10 years’ experience working closely with architects, designers, engineers and builders and 14 years working with both European style cabinetry and traditional face frame cabinetry. Rex loves bicycling, hiking, gardening and remodeling his 1927 English cottage.

You’ve been brought on as Versatile’s first-ever Custom Design Manager. Tell us about what your areas of responsibility will be.

I’ll be working closely with our sales and production teams in determining best design-build requirements for all of our products including doors, cabinets, sash, windows, furniture and store fronts etc. and creating processes and drafting standards for clear precise shop drawings to ensure the best product possible on a timely basis. I’ll also be hiring a couple more drafters in the very near future to meet our ever increasing growth demands!

You have a background in Architectural drafting and cabinetry design. What aspects of Versatile’s work and process are most similar to your previous work? What’s the most different?

It really ties both of my prior lives together plus the satisfaction that comes with being part of the superior well-crafted products that we are known for with an added opportunity to put together a creative team that can adapt to the demands of our fast paced growth.

What inspires you about custom manufacture?

I love that every project is unique!

Describe one of your favorite past projects. What were the challenges? What were some of the features that made it memorable? 

It’s difficult to choose! I guess it would be either the Block House Cafe casework and furniture in Dayton, OR, or the Witherspoon Building store-fronts downtown. Both of these projects were beautifully designed and had unique sets of sight specific challenges to overcome. The Block House Cafe project included a 10 foot tall back bar made of Eastern Black Walnut with the added challenge of concealing all the seismic bracing requirements and the counter and table tops were all made of reclaimed fir from the original floor joists!

What are the top 3 things on your “bucket list?” 

Travel, travel, travel!  I want to see everything but I want my next stops to be either the Acropolis, the Pyramids, a cruise through the Panama or the Mediterranean…or to just see the northern lights! I also have a pact with my partner to bike the coast from BC to Mexico!

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First Congregational Church of Portland

Restoration of the bell tower is underway so we thought we’d share some progress photos…


Pieces that are unable to be salvaged are being replaced with replicas…


Salvageable pieces are being touched up with a light sanding and wood putty…


Modifications are being made to the partially salvageable parts…


The scaffolding is up and our team is ready to start some site work.

Click here to contribute to the restoration fund.

Stay tuned for more updates!

We’re Hiring!


Versatile Wood Products is growing rapidly and we are looking to expand our team.

Rooted in the traditions of 18th and 19th century craftsmen, Versatile Wood Products provides uniquely versatile solutions to building challenges with a focus on custom-crafted historically accurate architectural wood products. Located in Portland, Oregon, our 40,000 square foot custom wood shop tackles residential, historic preservation and commercial projects throughout the Portland metro area, including Washington High School, Coquille River Lighthouse, Union Station and the Ladd Carriage House.

Versatile offers a competitive benefits package, encourages continued education to improve your skill-set and has a positive working environment. Visit our website to learn more about our company and what we do.

Available positions:

Professional Drafter

Versatile Wood Products needs a professional drafter for residential, commercial and historic architectural products such as windows, doors, cabinetry and mill work. Versatile is based primarily in the Portland Metro area and this position is full-time.

The drafter will be a key member of our design team, documenting existing conditions and creating shop drawings for high end architectural products with a keen awareness of project specifications and how structural decisions impact the outcome. She/he will collaborate with the Custom Design Manager on residential, commercial and preservation projects of large and small scopes, including some of the most prominent historic rehabilitation projects currently happening in Portland.

Skill set should include:
– Good communication
– Critical thinking
– Pride in her/his work
– Team player
– Problem solving
– Ability to meet or beat deadlines

We seek applicants with an Associate’s Degree in Architectural Drafting or 1-2 years’ experience as an architectural drafter in a related field, with a passion to create architectural products of the highest standards.

– Computer proficiency in Word, Excel, Outlook, CAD and 3-D modeling programs
– Experience with KCDw and/or Enroute software is a plus
– Working knowledge of window, door or cabinetry construction is a plus
– Punctuality, meeting deadlines and managing timelines
– Verifying feasibility of designs
– Reviewing plans, specs and project highlights

Great Benefits Package:
– Medical coverage paid 100% by Versatile
– Paid holidays
– 401k plan
– Profit sharing

Please respond to this posting with a cover letter, resume and portfolio or work samples to
Qualified applicants will have a strong work ethic, professional appearance and should have a valid driver’s license and properly insured vehicle. A pre-employment drug test will be required and professional references will be verified.
Versatile Wood Products is an equal opportunity employer.

Shop Helper

Versatile Wood Products, a custom sash, cabinetry and door company, needs a professional, self-sufficient Shop Helper. Under the supervision of the Shop Manager, the helper is responsible for the cleanliness and organization of the shop. This includes maintenance and janitorial duties in and around the building, as well as assisting with entry level shop activities as needed. Some familiarity with wood shops and power tools is a plus. Qualified applicants will have a strong work ethic, professional appearance, clean criminal record and can pass a drug test.

Minimum Requirements:
– Is able to lift and carry loads and objects of up to 75 pounds
– Possesses and exhibits personal initiative to regularly work without supervision
– Is timely, organized and meets and beats deadlines
– Is able to admit mistakes
– Has pride and respect for the work
– Puts the business first and strives for the success of this business
– Is an efficient and safe worker
– Has a professional appearance
– High School diploma or GED
– Possesses the ability to multi-task and determine priority of tasks
– Responds well to direction

Great Benefits Package:
– Medical coverage paid 100% by Versatile Wood Products
– Paid holidays
– 401k plan
– Profit sharing

Please send a resume to
****Please respond only if you meet all requirements****


Custom Wood Shop Sash & Door Foreman

Be an integral part of the most interesting historic rehabilitation projects currently happening in Oregon as a member of our custom sash and door team. Versatile Wood Products specializes in the restoration and replication of historically accurate custom wood windows, doors, cabinetry and millwork. Our 30 year history includes work on iconic buildings throughout Oregon as well as residential projects throughout Portland. We need a Foreman for our Sash and Door Department.
The ideal candidate will possess exceptional interpersonal skills, coupled with the ability to communicate clearly and concisely with colleagues, clients, stakeholders and management.

Job Description:
– Establish and drive detailed custom production processes for Sash and Door Department
– Collaborate with Design and Sales Teams about custom building design and details
– Redline, edit, and approve shop drawings for accuracy and buildability
– Compile materials takeoffs based on approved shop drawings
– Manage special restoration projects as needed
– Train and mentor craftsmen and carpenters in historically accurate construction techniques
– Coordinate the activities and schedule of the Sash and Door Department with Shop Manager
– Implement and maintain safety and shop best practices

– 5 years verifiable hands-on fine woodworking experience and 2 years of management in a custom shop environment minimum.
– Knowledge of traditional anatomy and construction of windows/sash and doors. Ability to critically read and interpret shop drawings is a must.
– Experience with high-end materials and one-off production as well as larger custom production efforts.
– Passion for historic methods and products.
– Proficient in Excel, Word and Outlook.
– Outstanding communication, organizational and follow through skills. Must be an effective, team-oriented leader.
– Must be timely, organized and meet and beat deadlines.
– Must have cell phone, valid driver’s license and properly licensed and insured vehicle.
– Must work as a team player with Operations Manager, Shop Manager, and Design Department Manager.

Great Benefits Package:
– Medical coverage paid 100% by Versatile Wood Products
– Paid holidays
– 401k plan
– Profit sharing

A pre-employment drug test is required, criminal background and professional references will be verified.
Please respond to this posting with a cover letter, portfolio and resume via email to:
****Please respond only if you meet all requirements****
Versatile Wood Products is an equal opportunity employer.

Postcards from the Shop

We recently expanded our shop space and we can now take on even more projects! Take a look at what we’ve been working on…


These custom cabinets are being built for a 19th century farmhouse in Hood River.


These full lite doors and transom are being delivered to the former Portland Police Athletic Association building, soon to become the Loyal Legion beer hall.


These interior french doors are for a mudroom designed by Portland design |build company Arciform.


This reclaimed farmhouse table is being restored and modified for additional storage.

What projects will you be bringing into the Versatile shop this summer? Email to get the ball rolling on your next custom quote.

You’re Invited: Living in History Brunch & Learn Panel Discussion